This month I added $105.46 to my husband's Roth using our FIA Card services cc rewards. This was not the only time I have used credit card rewards to help fill out our budget. This year I have gotten a total of $255.46 from FIA towards retirement which is about 1% of our income. 1% may not seem like a lot but it can seriously add up. And honestly, right now is the best time for us to be saving for retirement. Not only do we benefit from compound interest, but our loans are at the lowest they ever will be at. Right now all our student loans are deferred, so all we have is the mortgage at 4.75% and a personal loan of 3.49%. Once my husband graduates he will have $17000 in graduate loans at 6.55% and $5500 in undergraduate loans at 5.75%, and then when I graduate I'll add on another $5450 of undergraduate loans at 5.75%. Once we are paying those higher rate, it will be hard to throw all extra money into retirement, so any bit now, will help then. Before I found out that I had gotten into graduate school, we were putting money aside for retirement. Total with the FIA rewards and our own savings we put about 5% of my husband's salary in retirement. Naturally, if my husband and I were not students we should be saving 16%-18% of our salaries, but I think for students even a few percentage of your annual salary is enough.
We also have gotten $150 worth of cvs gift cards from discover. Normally it would be a lot less but I paid for my school fees with discover this year. I love that my school takes discover without any additional fees. These gift cards have helped us stretch our grocery budget, along with the grocery game, using iheartcvs.com. I don't think we did as well here as we could have because: 1)we were lazy and 2)we were extremely busy. Also, I was adjusting to eating differently because of being pregnant and shopping for that, so that could affected it as well. We did get better at using coupons for only what we needed, but we splurged a little too much. Next year I am going to work on improving our grocery budget and not going out to eat. We still have about $75 from the cvs gift cards so that should help next years budget. I am still trying to think of ideas to be more organized in regards to cvs. I am pretty good at checking deals at tops, and staying on top of them. I don't know why I am so bad with cvs. If anyone has any ideas on how to get better organized, I'd love to hear them. I am going to start planning meals better, and getting back to using the crockpot. Does anyone have favorite crockpot meals?
While I was working, this year, we paid out of pocket for my classes, and put money aside for the baby. However, we did not save up for the rest of my classes ($11,000 between the two semesters). We have been using the money from our renters ($550/month), after expenses to pay for the classes but we are still short. Therefore we had to dip into the student loans my husband took out a year ago and set aside, when we found out about graduate students losing the ability to get subsidized student loans. This does cause a problem because my husband will have to start paying back the loans before I graduate. This does mean that I am going to try to cut back even more next year. Every cent I save, is a cent that can let aside to pay off these loans. I think I am going to start giving myself one hour per day to work on being frugal, if that is couponing, doing a survey or writing a meal plan. This will do two things, help me decrease costs and help me work on organization before the baby comes. Readers, how do you keep organized?
My weekend plans include loading every item we have in the kitchen, into supercook.com. We keep buying things that are good deals, but not using things up. I am going to make myself make at least one recipe from supercook per week until the baby comes. This will help me keep to my budget, and will help us discover new things to eat. Part of why we are eating out, is because we are getting bored with what we have to eat at home. How do you fight boredom with meals? I'd love advice.
I also received $50 in amazon gift cards from swagbucks. This was lower than years previous and I believe it to be because I do not have the swagbar on my ipad and have been using that most often. How am I going to ramp up the amazon gift cards? Well, this will be part of my one hour of frugality per day. There are free swagbucks for listen to certain swagTV shows, often only a few minutes, which I can do while I do other frugal tasks. This should help bump up the amazon gift cards a bit.
However, I did get a $10 home depot gift card from https://www.recyclebank.com/ this year as well as an extra $1 coupon I wanted, for an item we would have purchased anyway. Given that I normally get about $60 from swagbucks, this does make up for the loss of the amazon gift cards. I hope that next year I earn another $10 gift card from recyclebank, while still making $60 from swagbucks. We will see if I can achieve it!
I received no cvs gift cards from mypoints though. I made enough to turn in for a $10 cvs gift card, but since we still have cvs gift cards from discover I chose not to redeem the points. Normally, though, I make enough points for about $40 worth of gift cards. I think this drop can be accounted for by the ipad use, and my crazy schedule. My goal for next year will actually only be $25 worth of gift cards, because of the craziness. It would be great if I am able to get more but I'll be happy with $25.
Overall I think I did less well this year than I wanted to, but that is one of the great things about being young. I can take this year and learn from it and improve as I get older.